One formidable challenge facing government agencies is balancing the need to process a wide variety of forms with ensuring that citizens adhere to various regulations and laws. Unfortunately, the blitz of paperwork that ensues drains time, resources and money from both the agency and the citizens.
What’s more, the introduction of the Web and e-commerce haven’t solved the problem. That’s partly because certain forms require a signature.
One agency that tackled this problem head on is San Diego County. “The vision was to convert paper into electronic documents so that people could take care of important matters without having to print a form, sign it, get into the car, drive to an office, pay for parking, stand in line and then take care of the matter,” says Rolf Bishop, chief deputy of systems and CIO for San Diego County’s Assessor, Recorder, County Clerk’s office. “We wanted to introduce the ability [for citizens] to handle various tasks from their home or on a mobile device.”
The county turned to SIGNiX to cut through all the paper. It went live with the system in 2013 and is continuing to roll it out across various county functions.
For example, it’s now possible to submit residential change of address, business change of address and business change of ownership forms online. “These are the top forms we identified,” Bishop explains. “We process anywhere from 2,800 to 3,000 change-of-address forms every month.”
In the past, it took about two-and-a-half full-time equivalents (FTEs) to handle the task, and the county incurred postage and paper costs as well.
Eliminating Administrative Paperwork
The benefits of e-signatures have been enormous, according to Bishop. He says the solution is saving San Diego County more than $93,000 per year. What’s more, the employees who previously handled the task are now able to address other important tasks.
“We have no shortage of things to manage and do,” Bishop says. “The ability to eliminate administrative paperwork is a huge gain.”
This approach also helps reduce traffic and congestion and introduces far more streamlined government interactions for citizens. “It takes someone only a few minutes to do something that might otherwise require a couple of hours,” he adds. “It eliminates a lot of inconvenience,” and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
The county faced a few challenges in getting the system up and running effectively. Bishop says that one of the biggest obstacles was simply obtaining buy-in because some stakeholders thought the system as risky.
“People were leery of introducing digital technology, and they did not want to tackle the conversion process,” he explains. Fortunately, their fears were unfounded.
“We simply had to convert the forms from a physical paper format to a digital format,” he says. An added benefit was that the county could store the forms and e-signatures on its own servers instead of in the cloud.
The project achieved ROI within three months, according to Bishop. “We have taken a huge step forward,” he says, “and we will continue to automate processes and introduce more efficient ways for local government and citizens to interact.”